Archives for posts with tag: Odyssey Tours

MADRID, BARCELONA AND TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS

In Part 3, Churches were once Mosques and Synagogues, Novelists pay homage to Spain’s bullfighters and castles, Tapas tantalizes and Flamenco fiery passions ignite.

Spain rolls out the welcome mat

Madrid was the last stop of our guided Odyssey Tour. For five of the 10 couples, our next stop was Barcelona, a three-day tour extension. Odyssey arranged our transportation to the airport from Madrid to Barcelona and had a local guide waiting to escort us to our final hotel. Transportation was also arranged to take us to the airport for our journey home.

Downtown Spain, where many buildings have sculptures decorating the skylines.

Where we stayed: Wellington Hotel, an old-world property near some of Spain’s luxury shopping. Many of the stores were brands popular in the United States, such as Tiffany or Benetton.

What we saw: Plaza Mayor, located in the heart of the city, and Palacio Real, a 2,800 room residence that was home to Bourbon kings from Charles III to Alfonso XIII. The palace today Read the rest of this entry »

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OLIVE OIL, HEMINGWAY, FLAMENCO DANCE, AND TAPAS

In Part 2, Roman ruins, mountain-top castles, gypsy offerings, history rich from battles and architectural ingenuity

Parador de Ronda in the background while restaurants, hotels and homes sit precariously on the edge of the El Tajo Gorge

There are more than 300 million olive trees planted across Spain. Don’t tell Italy, but we were informed that much of Italy’s olive oils derive from Spanish olives. That was just a glimpse into the world’s largest producers of olive oil. On the road from Carmona to Ronda, our Odyssey Tour group stopped for a few hours at Basilippo Calidad Gourmet Olive Oil company in El Viso del Alcor, Seville, Spain for a hands-on experience of picking olives from the trees. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the only time we had Read the rest of this entry »

SPAIN FURTHER AWAKENS OUR SENSE OF HISTORY, FROM CASTLES TO ICONIC CHURCHES

In Part 1, our tour of Portugal took us on a trip through Lisbon, Monsarez and Évora. The journey continues into Spain.

Roman Amphitheatre in Mérida

Mérida was a much too-short visit to one of the most fascinating attractions of our tour thus far. At least for my husband Russ and me. We’ve never been to Rome, so have never been to the remnants of the Roman Colosseum; therefore, the exploration of the Roman Amphitheatre and the Roman Theatre in Mérida was like being on the set of “Gladiator,” without having to watch the blood, gore and thumbs-down kill signs hoisted by a rabid audience.

While at the UNESCO World Heritage archeological site with our Odyssey Tour group, schools of Read the rest of this entry »

Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal,

PART 1: PORTUGAL

We travelled back to 13th century Portugal and Spain without having to step foot in a time machine or imbibing in mind-altering drugs. The trip began simply enough with an overnight stay at the Corinthia Hotel Lisbon, the first stop in our two-week trip with Odysseys Unlimited’s tour of historic lodging and architecture.

The tour is billed as Paradores & Pousadas, which means luxury accommodations resurrected from ancient monasteries, castles or city halls by governments eager to restore iconic structures reflective of Read the rest of this entry »

Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

Close up of The Masif under a brilliant sunrise. photo by Russ Wagner

April 1. April Fool’s Day and the biggest joke of the day was our group thinking our early morning LAN flight to Santiago, Chile would leave on time. We were at the Puerto Montt Airport by 8 am for a 10:15 flight. Technically, our airplane was there but it was somewhere above us circling above the dense fog that rendered anything beyond the glass windows just an opaque smoky haze.

The arduous pace our group has kept has taken its toll. Some are sick. Most of us are exhausted. The hours of fog-induced delay have pushed our schedule back. The plan to tour Santiago before our night’s activity became an hour stroll among crowded streets and an even more crowded plaza (watch out for the pickpockets!!). We spent little time in Santiago but my initial impressions are of a tattered-appearing city, overcrowded and ill-adept or disinclined to preserve their historical architecture. After a quick shower and change of clothes, we met inside the lobby of Hotel Atton Vitacura to find out which home we’d each be visiting for dinner with a local host.

Statue in plaza in Santiago, Chile. photo by Russ Wagner

Statue in plaza in Santiago, Chile. photo by Russ Wagner

As this was Russ and my first group tour, we didn’t quite understand what dinner with a local host meant. In this case, volunteers who are part of the Smithsonian community agree to host a home cooked meal for a designated number of people. As we came to understand, the host is provided requested provisions. Our group of four couples was assigned to Andrea, a well-travelled woman in her 30s who spoke fluent English. A driver picked each group up and delivered us to the respective front door. In our case, Andrea and her five-year-old (total cutie) son Read the rest of this entry »

The beauty of Patagonia outside our hotel window in Torres del Paine National Park

The beauty of Patagonia outside our hotel window in Torres del Paine National Park. All photos by Russ Wagner

Russ retched up to the moment we gingerly stepped into the zodiac that bounced in the rolling sea. If the Captain of the Stella Australis didn’t call us back due to a rapid gusting wind or sudden stormy skies, we would be among the few tourists this season to land at dawn on the legendary (Island of) Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos), the last bit of land before reaching Antarctica.

But that historic (for us) landing was many days after our group of 20 international travelers began our 18-day Patagonia Expedition with Smithsonian Journeys. It was not an adventure I would have chosen, but it fulfilled my husband’s dream to travel to the ends of the earth to visit one of the most recognized beautiful and relatively primitive destinations left on earth. This was not a laid-back vacation, but an adventure for even seasoned travelers.

Like all journeys, this one began with travel. Over the course of the next 18 days, Read the rest of this entry »

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